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Getting Good

A New Year’s Resolution

I grew up in a household where neither parent held a university degree. But being a bright lad, it was expected – nay, demanded – that I’d go on to university. Which after a brief stint as an apprentice mechanic – the horror – I did.

What was it that changed my mind? Well, getting fired for breaking a Mercedes didn’t help. But what made 16 year old me go to sixth form college, instead of to another trade? Was it my mother’s incessant nagging? My father’s stern disappointment? Nope. I watched the movie ‘Road Trip’ and decided to go back to college so I could eventually go on to university and bang someone as hot as Amy Smart.

That is absolutely true, and one of the earliest life goals that I ticked off.

I went down the path that will be familiar to so many professional woodworkers that I know. I embarked on a professional career that paid very well and made me very fat and very miserable. One day I picked up a chisel – actually that’s not at all true, I picked up some plywood – and made a bookshelf. And things escalated.

I do not have a 7 year apprenticeship in a dark Northern European workshop behind me. I didn’t intern at some fancy school like Rowden (even if I wanted to, which I do, I can’t afford it anyway). In fact, I haven’t done so much as attend a weekend short course.

I am what people refer to as “self taught”, which is nonsense. I have an expansive woodworking library and far more hours logged on YouTube than I care to admit. (One of those is for learning the right way to do things, one of those is for learning the worst possible way to do things.)

But in a profession where you actually have to put tool to wood at some point, the only real way to learn is to do.

Which brings me to the subject of this sputum: I suck at blogging.

I read with great envy the superb blog at lost art press, and how easy it seems for CS and MF to churn out top tier writing on a daily basis. And so I avoid jotting down my own thoughts, because it’s such a struggle to do so.

A friend of mine who has a deep and intractable love affair with electrons has been visiting the workshop to learn some hand tool skills. Specifically, he wants to learn to hand cut dovetails.

When getting him set up for the first time he marvelled as I grabbed a panel saw and ripped a 1000mm length board in an arrow straight line. My first paid woodworking job was 9 full size doors made from blackbutt. To save money I bought the wood in the rough, and at the time all I had was a few hand tools: a couple of ancient Disston saws, a couple of ancient Stanley planes, and some cheap chisels.

“If you’d ripped 270 linear metres of blackbutt by hand, your sawing would be a marvel, too.”

Point is, my sawyering is ripper. And that’s because I have hand sawn more in one job than most woodworkers will do in several lifetimes.

CS and MF are career journalists. Doubtless they’ve written more words than most will ever read. Which would explain the apparent ease by which they churn out gold nugget after gold nugget.

If I’d written 270 linear metres of blog posts, my writing would be a marvel, too.

So here’s my new year’s resolution: to be as good at blogging as I am at sawing in a straight line. I make no apologies for the wavy lines along the way.

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